Google’s Answer to Facebook Likes: +1

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Updated. For the longest time, Google has resisted the idea of human interference in its flagship offering: search (and advertising.) Lately, thanks to the fast growing volume of information and rising importance of social validation, the search giant is changing its tune and is reluctantly embracing humans.

The company today is launching a new +1 feature that allows folks who are users of Google services such as Gmail, Google Talk, Google Reader and Google Profiles to rank the search results. Think of it as Google’s retweet gesture, and a way of social validation. If you think a search result is a good one, you can click on +1 and that helps rank a search result higher. Update: A company spokesperson says the company hopes to test adding these +1s to search results to help a result rank higher. You can also undo your +1 click.

So when you use the search while logged into Google, you will be able to see who added +1 to a specific search result from your social graph – in this case, your contacts in various Google services such as Gmail, Google Contacts and folks you are following on Google Reader and Buzz. Google says it will add Twitter login support in the near future.

Google is also using the +1 social validation system for its ads as well. Google is looking to offer the +1 services to publishers, which will be able to embed the +1 button on their pages much like the Tweet This and Digg This buttons. As the company explains on the Google Blog:

We expect that these personalized annotations will help sites stand out by showing users which search results are personally relevant to them. As a result, +1’s could increase both the quality and quantity of traffic to the sites people care about.

But the +1 button isn’t just for search results. We’re working on a +1 button that you can put on your pages too, making it easy for people to recommend your content on Google search without leaving your site. If you want to be notified when the +1 button is available for your website, you can sign up for email updates at our +1 webmaster site.

I’m glad Google is taking this small but important step and using “social validations” to improve its core offering. I’m just surprised that the company took so long to come to this realization. Social validation is a behavior that has gone mainstream – thanks to the likes of Digg, StumbleUpon, Bit.ly, Twitter and most importantly, Facebook. Google’s implementation isn’t obtrusive and is a good idea. I hope it becomes popular, and in the process, hopefully improves search on the web.

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